MVLS is a private, non-profit legal services provider established in 1981 to help meet the need for civil legal services in Maryland. Their mission is to provide quality civil legal assistance to Marylanders with limited income at low or no cost.
MVLS is expanding its efforts to avoid foreclosure and tax sale for low-income clients by addressing a barrier that is experienced by many homeowners, particularly in Baltimore City. We see many clients who have lived in their homes for decades but aren't the owner of the record on the deed. Generally it's their parents or grandparents who have passed away years ago, and no one did estate planning or opened an estate.
Trying to resolve the deed issues can be insurmountable either because the title is so tangled it's impossible to sort it out, or because the costs of probate are prohibitive for our clients. Probate fees can be $300-$500, plus publication and bond fees ($200), plus recordation and lien certificate fees (approx. $110), plus the client must be current on their water bill and property taxes, at least in Baltimore City. These costs are an enormous barrier for our clients. It can be critically important to get the client's name onto the deed so that they can qualify for the Homeowner's Property Tax Credit and Baltimore City water credits, as well as home repair programs that can address plumbing or issues that can lead them towards tax sale.
In addition to assisting with tax sale and estate administration, we recognized that we needed to try to avoid some of these legal issues by encouraging more community members to do estate planning. As a result, over the past few months, in partnership with the Maryland Faith Health Network, MVLS staff have been out talking to various congregations about the value of estate planning to encourage community stabilization. This partnership was featured both on Maryland Public Television and in the Baltimore Sun.
With support from the Leonard and Helen Stulman Charitable Foundation, we are expanding these efforts with the hiring of a new Advanced Planning Coordinator who will focus their efforts on building strong and long-term relationships with Baltimore City churches and community health workers to highlight why estate planning is so important for low-income individuals. More to come on this exciting project over the next few months!
LITIGATION FUND EXPANDED TO INCLUDE PROBATE FEES
In recognition of the cost barriers listed above for estate administration cases, the Litigation Fund, operated through the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, has expanded expenses to include certain probate costs including the probate fee, bonding, publication fee, lien certificate, deed recordation, and copies of death certificates.
Learn more about MVLS here!